Sunday, November 30th, 2008
One of the landmarks of Dolly Parton’s career was the Trio album, her platinum-selling collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. It was one of the few country albums in history to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and it won every major industry award, including the ACM for Top Album.
Just as compelling was Parton’s collaboration with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, which went gold despite zero support from country radio. After another collaboration with Ronstadt and Harris in the late nineties, there hasn’t been another collaboration of the sort from any major country artists.
I think this concept needs to be updated for the 21st Century. My vote is for a Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis and Carlene Carter album that fulfills the promise of their headlining 1996 tour.
Which three artists would you like to see put out a trio album?
Sunday, November 16th, 2008
In coordination with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Shout Factory! has begun a new series of country music DVDs that collect archived performances of the genre’s legends, coupled with rare interview footage and Hall of Fame inductions. The promise of this series cannot be overstated, both for fans of the artists profiled and the need for country music’s legacy to be preserved.
Both of the debut entries in the series follow the same format. Fifteen performance clips from old television shows are arranged chronologically, and provide the bulk of each set’s content. The defining singles of both artists are included, and in watching the clips, viewers can get a sense of how each artist developed, along with a fascinating window into how country music itself was presented on television over the course of four decades.
For a variety of reasons, the Marty Robbins collection is the stronger of the two. Since his career dates back to the fifties, we’re treated to four performances from Country Style USA, one of the earliest country music television programs. As we transition into the age of color television, we’re treated to a stunning performance of “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” from the 1970 CMA Awards. As the liner notes point out, Robbins penned the song in the hospital while recovering from his first heart attack. In one of many appearances on these two collections by other country legends, Tennessee Ernie Ford gives a classy introduction that precedes the performance.
Category DVD Reviews
Tags: Bill Anderson, Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Jan Howard, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Lorrie Morgan, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Pam Tillis, Tammy Wynette, Tennessee Ernie Ford
Sunday, November 9th, 2008
For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.
- Luke Bryan
- Easton Corbin
- Jerrod Neimann
- Chris Young
- Zac Brown Band
Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible. This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination. With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race.
- Randy Houser
- Jamey Johnson
- Jake Owen
- Darius Rucker
- Zac Brown Band
Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation.
- Jason Aldean
- Rodney Atkins
- Lady Antebellum
- James Otto
- Kellie Pickler
The industry favorites Lady Antebellum became the fourth band in history to win this award, following Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Sawyer Brown.
- Jason Aldean
- Rodney Atkins
- Little Big Town
- Kellie Pickler
- Taylor Swift
In the year since winning the Horizon Award, Swift has solidified her position as the genre’s most successful rising star. While her debut album hasn’t reached the sales heights of the first discs by previous winners Carire Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, Swift is still one of the genre’s only significant sellers.
- Miranda Lambert
- Little Big Town
- Josh Turner
- Carrie Underwood
I had a sneaking suspicion that Josh Turner was going to take this home, but as I’ve said before, Carrie’s got the best pipes since Trisha Yearwood. That she’ was acknowledged for that at such an early stage of her career is pretty amazing. Somehow I think the thrill of winning Horizon was short-lived, as winning Female Vocalist the same night left that memory in the dust.
- Dierks Bentley
- Big & Rich
- Miranda Lambert
- Julie Roberts
Four of these five were nominees again the following year, and all in categories besides just Horizon, though Lambert got another shot at that as well. I think Big & Rich and Sugarland are making the most interesting music, and they’re moving more units than Bentley, though he’s no slouch himself. The CMA showed good judgment this year.
Category CMA Awards
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Big & Rich, Billy Dean, Blake Shelton, Boxcar Willie, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Bryan White, Buddy Jewel, Caroline Dawn Johnson, Carrie Underwod, Chely Wright, Clint Black, Dan Seals, Darryl Worley, David Ball, David Frizell, Deana Carter, Deborah Allen, Desert Rose Band, Dierks Bentley, Dixie Chicks, Doug Stone, Dwight Yoakam, Earl Thomas Conley, Eddy Raven, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Gary Allan, George Strait, Gretchen Wilson, Highway 101, Holly Dunn, James Otto, Jamie O’Neal, Jason Aldean, Jessica Andrews, Jo Dee Messina, Joe Nichols, John Anderson, John Berry, John Michael Montgomery, John Schneider, Josh Turner, Julie Roberts, K.T. Oslin, Kathy Mattea, Keith Urban, Keith Whitley, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Kentucky Headhunters, Lady Antebellum, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Greenwood, Lee Roy Parnell, Little Big Town, Lorrie Morgan, Mark Chesnutt, Martina McBride, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mel McDaniel, Michael Martin Murphey, Michael Peterson, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Nickel Creek, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Phil Vassar, Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Ray Charles, Reba McEntire, Restless Heart, Ricky Skaggs, Ricky Van Shelton, Rodney Atkins, Rosanne Cash, Sammy Kershaw, Sara Evans, Sawyer Brown, Shania Twain, SHeDaisy, Shelly West, Shenandoah, Sugarland, Suzy Boggus, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, T. Graham Brown, T.G. Sheppard, Taylor Swift, Terri Clark, Terri Gibbs, The Forrester Sisters, The Judds, The O’Kanes, The Whites, The Wilkinsons, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Tracy Lawrence, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, Vern Gosdin, Wade Hayes
Monday, September 29th, 2008
Kellie Pickler is at an important crossroads.
On her self-titled second album, she attempts to build on what must be an unexpectedly successful stay in Nashville. As a finalist on American Idol in 2006, she gained notable exposure, but the reality-show sweepstakes rarely produces significant long-term returns. After a pair of CMA nominations and sales of over 800,000 copies of her debut disc Small Town Girl, Pickler now faces a test. In a fickle marketplace where Carrie Underwood is the current queen of the country kingdom and Taylor Swift is its reigning princess, Pickler must discover her place. It’s not a matter of competition with the girl squad, but rather a need for her to establish an identity distinct from the other heroines of mainstream country music.
But although her second disc has some nice moments, its main problem is that Kellie Pickler the person sometimes struggles to translate into Kellie Pickler the singer. Some of the ten tracks here still don’t reveal her real identity, although it’s ever-present in every interview and media campaign that have played as much a part in her career as the actual music. Ironic, given that the supposed theme of the album is expressed in its title: Kellie Pickler. And the production, courtesy of Chris Lindsey, eschews clarity at certain junctures in favor of making big, bold statements. The prominence of drums and electric guitars is often used to hide the utter lack of music personality in the artist, but as we’ve learned in the last years, Pickler always has something to say. She’s not quite able to express that inescapable truth at key moments here due to the musical mix and a handful of innocuous tunes.
Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
This topic was suggested by reader “vp”, who figured that Country Universe would be a good place to discuss this quote from Carrie Underwood:
Meanwhile, Underwood has plans. Maybe these plans will even include Faith Hill. Underwood says she intends them to include Kellie Pickler, another Idol graduate tilling the same musical soil. “I want to have a girls-only tour and get some awesome chicks together, and have us all go out and,” Underwood beams a happy smile out toward this future, “kick butt.”
It’s been done a couple of times before, with the first major instance being the 1996 Kraft Country Tour with Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis & Carlene Carter. I’d certainly be on board for a show featuring Carrie Underwood, and I’d put Trisha Yearwood and Miranda Lambert on the bill with her.
Of course, I’d be even more on board for a nineties ladies tour with Trisha, Pam and Patty. Or Kathy, Suzy and Chapin. Both mixes would be great.
What do you think of a 2009 All-Female Country Tour? Who would you like to see share the bill with Underwood? Any other women you’d like to see share a bill together?
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
100 Greatest Women
There are many second generation country stars that build on the legacy of the famous parent that came before them. Lorrie Morgan is one of the few that actually eclipsed her famous parent, becoming one of the most popular female country artists during the nineties gold rush.
Of course, she’d been chasing the dream long before that. She was born the daughter of George Morgan, an Opry member who had his biggest hit in 1949 with “Candy Kisses.” Morgan has described herself as an “Opry brat,” a kid who grew up backstage of the venerable institution. She was 13 when she made her own Opry debut, garnering a huge ovation for her rendition of Marie Osmond’s “Paper Roses.” Three short years later, her father died suddenly. Still a teen in high school, she dedicated herself fully to pursuing her own singing career, both to carry on her father’s legacy and help pay the bills he left behind.
To say things went slowly would be an understatement. She was nineteen when she released her first single, the Eddy Raven-penned “Two People in Love” on ABC Records. After that stopped at #75, she put out the Liz Anderson-penned “Tell me I’m Only Dreaming” on MCA, which also failed to capture an audience. A third single in 1979, “I’m Completely Satisfied With You,” was a studio-spliced posthumous duet with her late father. It stopped at No. 93.
Thursday, December 30th, 2004
Best Country Albums of 2004
1. Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying
A stunning mainstream country album that manages to challenge the listener while still pleasing radio. There are too many high points to list, but “Drugs Or Jesus,” “My Old Friend,” “Open Season On My Heart” and “Walk Like A Man” still pack a punch after repeated listenings.
2. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways
Is melancholic euphoria possible? Sadness and loneliness are romanticized on this collection with gorgeous results. “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” is nothing short of a revelation.
3. Chris Thile, Deceiver
Resident genius of Nickel Creek uses a side project to indulge his most whimsical aural fantasies. His lyrics are frighteningly and incisively intelligent; the honesty of this record outlasts the novelty of the production.
4. Todd Snider, East Nashville Skyline
His peak to date, Snider shows up with his trademark humor and biting political commentary, but reveals a sensitivity that makes the material resonate. His struggles with life, love and God are powerfully captured here.
5. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose
Much press ink is being spilled about the excellence of this album, and it’s mostly warranted. Lynn was never an album artist to begin with; she was essentially a brilliant singles artist. She has created a cohesive collection of songs that work well together, and her writing talent is as sharp as ever.
6. Lorrie Morgan, Show Me How
A welcome return to form by one of the best female vocalists of the nineties. She has found material that reflects her place in life, and her voice has acquired a smoky quality when she uses her lower register.
7. Patty Griffin, Impossible Dream
She continues to be a top-notch songwriter, and while she doesn’t show off her vocal power much here, she has written some of the best songs of her career. Highlights include “Useless Desires”, “When It Don’t Come Easy” and “Top Of The World.”
8. Big & Rich, Horse of a Different Color
A schizophrenic, fearless and wildly entertaining debut. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
9. Rachel Proctor, Where I Belong
In a year where Gretchen Wilson sold three million records and Julie Roberts scored with the critics, Proctor quietly released a better album than either of them. She’s a great songwriter, and her vocals have a natural vulnerability that is effortlessly convincing.
10. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Between Here And Gone
If understanding humanity is the road to truth, Carpenter’s music might be leading the way. “Grand Central Station”, sung from the perspective of a Ground Zero worker being haunted by lost souls looking to get home, again reveals her ability to deeply understand universal emotions. Another great album from an artist for the ages.
Gretchen Wilson, Here For The Party
Keith Urban, Be Here
Tift Merritt, Tambourine
Willie Nelson, It Will Always Be
The Notorious Cherry Bombs, The Notorious Cherry Bombs
Dolly Parton, Live And Well
SHeDaisy, Sweet Right Here
Twelve Best Reissues & Compilations
1. Emmylou Harris, Rhino Reissues:
Pieces of the Sky,
Elite Hotel, Luxury Liner,
Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town,
Blue Kentucky Girl, Light Of The Stable
2. The Mavericks, Definitive Collection
3. Kim Richey, Collection
4. Johnny Cash, Life
5. Shania Twain, Greatest Hits
6. Dwight Yoakam, Dwight’s Used Records
7. Patsy Cline, Definitive Collection
8. George Strait, 50 Number Ones
9. Terri Clark, Greatest Hits 1994-2004
10. Kenny Rogers, 42 Ultimate Hits
11. Lee Ann Womack, Greatest Hits
12. George Jones, 50 Years of Hits
Ten Best From Outside the Country Universe
1. Green Day, American Idiot
2. Norah Jones, Feels Like Home
3. Olivia Newton-John, Indigo: Women of Song
4. Elton John, Peachtree Road
5. U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
6. Beastie Boys, To The Five Boroughs
7. Steve Earle, The Revolution Starts Now
8. Eminem, Encore
9. Linda Ronstadt, Hummin’ To Myself
10. R.E.M., Around The Sun